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Posts tagged: Farm to School

Strawberries, Blueberries, Corncobs, Oh My! – Bringing the Farm to Summer

A person picking out produce

Incorporating local produce into summer meals programs benefits the entire community.

Fields of asparagus and peas are in full bounty, soon to make way for sweet, juicy strawberries; towering stalks of corn; and more tomatoes than you’d ever know what to do with!  In many parts of the country, as we approach summer, the warm weather means that local harvests are at their peak, and fresh fruits and vegetables abound.  That’s what makes summer the perfect time of year for incorporating local foods into your meals.  And according to the most recently released data from the Farm to School Census 2015, more than 1,000 school districts nationwide are doing just that:  They’re bringing the farm to summer!

When school lets out for summer, there’s still a need to ensure the millions of children who receive free and reduced-price school meals during the school year have consistent access to healthy meals.  USDA’s summer meals programs help fill that gap, serving over 191 million meals to children last summer alone!  Community centers, libraries, day camps, churches, and more can all sign up to host a summer meals site through the summer meals programs, but schools make for a particularly good site since they already have food production facilities in place for serving meals throughout the school year.  The Farm to School Census 2015 found that more than one in five school districts that participate in farm to school programs report including local foods in meals served through their summer meals programs. Read more »

Schools across America Honored for Their “One in a Melon” Farm to School Programs

A girl working in the garden

Farm to school programs help kids form healthy habits, learn where their food comes from, and develop an understanding of the importance of nutrition and agriculture.

Back in March, we invited you to vote for the school district with your favorite farm to school program – one with exemplary initiatives, inspiring results; one that you think is ‘one in a melon’!

Well, the results were tabulated and one district in each state has just received the “One in a Melon” award.  These districts received the most votes from parents, teachers, community stakeholders, students, and others who recognized the incredible work they’re doing through their farm to school programs. We were so inspired by the nominations we received that we wanted to share a few quotes of them with you, but for a full list of award winners, visit https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov/find-your-school-district. Read more »

SNAP-Ed Helps Spur Healthy Choices

A family making food

SNAP-Ed provides shoppers with the information they need to make healthy food and lifestyle choices.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Encouraging all Americans to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). One of the most important ways we do that is through nutrition education provided by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

SNAP-Ed delivers evidence-based, coordinated nutrition education and obesity prevention services and information to people participating in SNAP, as well as other eligible low-income families and communities.  Activities provided through SNAP-Ed encourage physical activity, work to improve nutrition, and prevent obesity.  These activities may include: Read more »

Farm to School: An $800 Million Investment in Local Foods, Local Economies

Farm to School graphic

42% of districts surveyed by USDA say they participate in farm to school activities.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

We’ve talked quite a bit in the past about the major benefits we’re seeing in schools and districts that have established a farm to school program.  Their efforts are giving students a deep understanding and appreciation for where their food comes from and drastically shifting kids’ opinions of fruits and veggies.

The final results of the USDA Farm to School Census 2015 shed light on another huge benefit of farm to school – we’re talking $789 million huge.  That’s the total amount schools report investing in their communities in school year 2013 – 2014 by purchasing local food from farmers, ranchers, fisherman, food processors, and manufacturers.  This represents a 105 percent increase over school year 2011 – 2012, when the first USDA Farm to School Census was conducted.  In addition, nearly half (47 percent) of districts engaged in farm to school report that they plan to purchase more local foods in the coming years. Read more »

A Peach of a School Meal Alternative

An overview of Florida’s Fresh Peach Promotion from March 1 through June 1, 2015

An overview of Florida’s Fresh Peach Promotion from March 1 through June 1, 2015.

An increasing number of our nation’s schools are using locally grown foods for school meals thanks to efforts of The USDA Farm to School Program. However, the availability of locally grown produce is often at the mercy of harsh weather conditions and other elements that lower production and cause shortages of popular food items.

Florida has experienced this challenge first-hand. A disease called citrus greening has already caused millions of dollars in damage to Florida’s orange crop.  USDA scientists have been actively engaged in research to eradicate the disease, but the fruit, a favorite of school children, is now less available than in the past. The Florida Farm to School team is working with Florida Classic Growers to provide a new fruit alternative for school menus while also assisting fruit growers hit by damage to their orange crop.

By Lindsey Grubbs, Florida Farm to School and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program Director, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Farm to School Program took on a new project this year in conjunction with citrus growers focused on a new product in Florida: peaches! The Florida citrus industry has been experiencing difficulties recently with the spread of citrus greening. Citrus greening was discovered in Florida in 2005 and since taken a toll on the area’s orange groves. Read more »

Georgia School Gardens Nourish Healthy Habits

Administrator Audrey Rowe joining Bibb County School District and Alexander II Magnet School faculty and students in their school garden

Administrator Audrey Rowe joins Bibb County School District and Alexander II Magnet School faculty and students in their school garden.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 celebrated its fifth anniversary last month, and I can tell you it has made a difference!  I think back on the past five years and am proud of the strides we’ve made in giving students access to more local and healthy food in our schools.

Accompanied by FNS Administrator Audrey Rowe, I had a wonderful visit with two Georgia elementary schools this fall. Our trip to Alexander II Magnet School in Bibb County and Westside Elementary School in Houston County highlighted 2015 National School Lunch Week celebrations (October 12-16) and offered a great example of progress on the school meals front. Read more »